Worcester Warriors players blocked from leaving club

A flag at Sixways Stadium, home of Worcester Warriors - Frustrated Worcester Warriors players blocked from leaving club - PA
A flag at Sixways Stadium, home of Worcester Warriors - Frustrated Worcester Warriors players blocked from leaving club - PA

Frustrated Worcester Warriors players have been prevented from leaving the club immediately because the company that employs them has not been placed in administration, Telegraph Sport can reveal.

WRFC Trading Limited was placed into administration on Tuesday after the Warriors missed the Rugby Football Union's 5pm deadline to prove that the club had a credible plan for the future. The Warriors were suspended from all competitions with immediate effect and an application to put them into administration was accepted by the courts the following day.

But WRFC Players Limited, the company which employs the players, was spared from administration, which was a necessity for players to engineer an immediate release from their contracts.

Telegraph Sport understands that initial talks between Worcester players and other clubs have begun, given the uncertainty over their future.

The RFU's regulation 11.2.2 states that any player may terminate their contract "immediately, if the Club is unable to pay its debts or enters into compulsory or voluntary liquidation... or an administrator appointed of its assets or ceases for any reason to carry on business or takes or suffers any similar action."

However, since the company which employs the Worcester squad is not in administration, the only way for players to secure a move elsewhere would be to serve a two-week notice period from Friday’s pay day should they not receive their September salary payments.

If the American-backed consortium led by Jim O'Toole is successful with its takeover effort and proceeds at "warp speed", as the former Worcester Warriors executive promised, however, then the likelihood is that players will receive their salary payments before the two-week notice period is served and would still be unable to depart the beleaguered club.

On Monday, it is understood that the Rugby Players' Association informed players that Worcester's administration meant that they could tear up their contracts. On Wednesday night, however the RPA performed an about-turn: "The RFU has now confirmed that WRFC Players Limited (the company that you are contracted to) has not entered administration," the RPA wrote. "You may have seen that a different company, WRFC Trading Limited, has entered into administration.

"We can only imagine how frustrating this news will be and we will be speaking with all stakeholders to urge them to find a reasonable solution for the players as soon as possible."

On Thursday, the RPA released a statement confirming the difficult position players are in: "This situation leaves the players in a no-win scenario, with payday looming, the club suspended from competition, a winding-up petition due to be heard next week and no ability to terminate their contract if they wish to pursue opportunities elsewhere. The directors of WRFC Players Limited must provide clarity on what the proposed strategy is for WRFC Players Ltd. This clarity must be provided urgently as this situation cannot continue."

Telegraph Sport understands that there is further uncertainty and concern surrounding any potential transfers. Should a contracted player complete a transfer away from Worcester, it is not clear whether any fee accrued for a departure would sit in WRFC Players Limited, which is still controlled by co-owners Colin Goldring and Jason Whittingham.

Julie Palmer of Begbies Traynor, Worcester's joint administrators, also told Telegraph Sport on Wednesday that she would seek an adjournment of a winding-up petition by HM Revenue & Customs that would prevent WRFC Players Limited, the players' employers, from being liquidated. Such a scenario would also see Worcester's players' contracts declared null and void.

As first revealed by Telegraph Sport, the Worcester crisis was triggered last month by a winding-up petition from HMRC against both WRFC Trading Limited and WRFC Players Ltd, due to be heard in court next week.

Palmer said putting the former into administration had not staved off the winding-up threat to the latter and that she needed to have “urgent” conversations with HMRC.